On Friday, sophomore Kasi Grosserode was the first girl in Neligh-Oakdale's cross country program to win an individual conference championship.
Grosserode accomplished this feat at the 2014 Niobrara Valley Conference meet, which was run in conjunction with the 37th annual Bloomfield Invitational. Seventeen schools competed in this year's Bloomfield meet, and all of the NVC teams ran, allowing the schools to score conference results as well.
Coach Rick Eickholt said Grosserode "rode a strong performance throughout the entire race, powered by a great kick to the finish," to become Neligh-Oakdale's first-ever female cross country conference champion.
"In a very tight race, Kasi out kicked last year’s conference champion and state medalist from West Holt by 2 seconds, as a group of four runners turned the final corner together and sprinted the final 150 meters to the finish line," Eickholt said.
Grosserode ran 21:27 for a first-place NVC finish and third place in the Bloomfield Invite. Jayda Chance crossed the finish line in 22:13 for fifth in the conference and ninth in the Bloomfield meet. Brittany McConnell ran 26:54 for 21st and 35th; and Courtney Pellatz clocked 27:17 for 23rd and 27th, respectively.
The coach said one of his team's season-long goals has been to "compete well and try to be the best in our conference."
"After 20 years of competing in the NENAC conference and competing head to head against “power house” Crofton, as well as many other strong programs, our girls have never crowned an individual Conference Champion," Eickholt said.
He said Crystal and Kelli Frey earned runner-up honors in 1995 and 1996 to previously hold Neligh-Oakdale's top finishes.
"I’m very proud of Kasi’s accomplishment, but I’m also very proud of the entire girl’s team," Eickholt said. "We were able to field a full team for the first time since the first week of the season. I can’t say enough about the courage and stick-to-it-iveness that senior captain Courtney Pellatz has shown this season as she has battled compartment syndrome in the legs. She has been and will continue to be even after graduation a very special and important part of our program."
In addition, he said Jayda Chance and Brittany McConnell ran faster on Friday than they ran on the same course last year.
"In fact, Jayda shaved off nearly 50 seconds from last year’s time and has run faster than she ran last year in every meet with the exception of one where she ran the exact same time as last year. Jayda earned all- conference honors for the second year in a row with a 5th place finish in the NVC," Eickholt said.
The girls team earned third place overall in both meets.
"In the ironic twist, created by the different array of runners in both meets N-O defeated CWC by 1 point in the Bloomfield meet, but were edged by one point by CWC for runner-up in the scoring for NVC meet," he said.
For second year in a row, senior Michael Peinke earned all-conference honors in the NVC with a 9th place finish.
"Michael and Jordan Chelle each improved last year’s times by 25 seconds and an amazing 3 minutes and 4 seconds," Eickholt said. "Jordan has shown vast improvements in the past few weeks. I was also really pleased with Connor Knievel’s race as he had his best race of the season, running his fastest time of the year on a 5K course."
Peinke finished in 19:17 for 9th in the NVC and 24th in the Bloomfield meet, followed by Connor Knievel with a 21:05 for 23rd and 50th; Jordan Chelle with a 21:09 for 24th and 52nd; and Jakub Raspl with a 24:54 for 35th and 73rd. Overall, the boys team finished sixth in the conference and 14th in the Bloomfield Invite.
The second conference champion of the day was crowned when eighth grader Haley Kerkman captured gold medals in both the Bloomfield Invitational and the NVC portions of the junior high meet.
"It was very gratifying to see Haley win both portions of the girls junior high cross country races," Eickholt said. Also continuing her impressive season was Madi Grosserode. Madi finished in 8th place, and for the second year in a row, both Haley and Madi gained all-conference medals. An impressive accomplishment is that both Madi and Haley finished in the top 10 in every JH meet this season."
Junior High 2500m course, NVC and Bloomfield results:
Haley Kerkman, 10:01, 1st, 1st
Madi Grosserode, 10:40, 8th, 10th
Emma Bixler, 11:45, 14th, 18th
Adysen Boggs, 12:13, 17th, 22nd
Natasha Peinke, 12:50, 19th, 25th
Hailey Bixler, 13:57, 20th, 26th
Nadia Peinke, 15:12, 22nd, 28th